National Newspaper Week, Oct 1-8, has come and gone.
If you missed this recognition, we understand. There are so many designated “weeks” or “days” to promote this or that cause, it’s hard to keep track.
But for those of us in the newspaper industry, our week was memorable if for no other reason than the release of another poll that provided a measure of vindication and a reason to smile.
A Reuters poll found Americans have more confidence in the news media than they do in President Donald Trump’s administration.
The poll of over 14,300 people showed that the percentage of adults who said they had a “great deal” or “some” confidence in the press rose to 48 percent in September from 39 percent last November.
Confidence in Trump’s administration moved in the opposite direction, according to the poll results.
The survey findings are consistent with other polling data from the summer, indicating that confidence in the media has gone up this year while confidence in the executive branch as gone down.
Fifty-five percent of the respondents in a Public Policy poll released in July said they trust The New York Times more than the president, while 38 percent chose Trump and 7 percent said they were not sure. And 53 percent said they trust The Washington Post more than the president, while 38 percent chose Trump and 9 percent were not sure.
Why does this matter?
When a president speaks, he has the ability to influence millions of people. And when it comes to the press, Trump has been trying to do just that. He has declared war on the media.
He won the election by savaging the media as purveyors of “Fake News.” Since taking office he has described the press as a “disgrace” and “out of control.” Reporters are “very dishonest people,” and their coverage “an outrage.”
He views the press as the “opposition party” and in February he declared that the media was not his enemy, but rather an enemy of the American people.
On Thursday, Trump tweeted: “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up — FAKE!”
But recent surveys show that people aren’t buying Trump’s vitriol. In the battle for credibility, the press is winning.
The press is succeeding by doing its job. After all, trust is earned. When it comes to journalism, that means adhering to the time-honored principles of fairness, balance, accuracy and accountability.
As long as the press respects these tenets, it will earn the trust of its readers. Even in the era of fake news, alternative facts, social media-driven echo chambers and blow-hard presidents.